29. Telegram From the Embassy in Belgium to the Department of State0

1749. Paris for USRO. Embassy telegram 1744.1 When Ambassador saw Spaak last evening latter had received news from Minister of [Page 68] Foreign Trade Brasseur re tariff increases on carpets and glass. Spaak was restrained, saying GOB “shocked and Brasseur wild” by our action. While he would not wish to make a further official comment until he had received full report, he wanted Ambassador to know frankly and on personal basis that general impression within GOB was that he had engaged in very sharp if not unethical practice. He did not understand how we could take such action when we had just completed long and difficult tariff negotiations under GATT in which there had been give and take and where European nations had made very considerably greater concession to United States than they had received from us. Our action gave rise to unfortunate impression that we had deliberately extracted all possible concessions from Europeans while apparently knowing all along that we were going to take action against glass and carpets after we had gotten maximum in GATT negotiations. Spaak said our action came at unfortunate time and fears there will be great hue and cry in Belgium and among other members of Six which may have adverse affect on President’s new trade legislation.

He particularly regrets that some may use our action to question American good faith at a time, he said, when Europe needs to have full faith in American leadership if NATO and free world unity and strength are to be maintained.

Ambassador explained to him great difficulties of this problem for us and reasons for our action along lines of action Secretary Ball’s message (Department telegram 2512)2 which Ambassador also conveyed to Spaak. Ambassador expressed strong hope this matter would be kept in perspective and not unduly inflated.

Spaak said this was serious matter which he would wish reflect on and would be in touch with Ambassador after his return from Luxembourg which he is visiting today in connection with European integration matters.

Spaak’s whole attitude was one of sorrow rather than anger.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 411.004/3–2062. Official Use Only. Repeated to Geneva, Paris, Bonn, Rome, The Hague, Luxembourg, and London.
  2. Dated March 19, telegram 1744 reported that the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Commerce had been informed that morning about U.S. tariff increases on carpets and glass. The immediate Belgian reaction was that the increase was “unfortunate” and would not only damage U.S.-Belgian trade relations, but also have repercussions on the other EEC members. (Ibid., 411.004/3–1962) A memorandum of the conversation during which Trezise informed representatives of the Belgian, British, French, Italian, German, and Japanese Embassies for the tariff increases is ibid.
  3. Dated March 17, the message to Spaak reads:

    “I am aware of the seriousness with which the Belgian Government views the proposal of the US Tariff Commission to increase duties on certain types of carpet and glass which are of particular importance to Belgian trade with the United States. It is for this reason that I wish to inform you personally that the President has considered all aspects of this problem carefully over a period of time, and he feels that he must accept the Tariff Commission’s recommendation to raise duties on these items. The decision was taken in the context of the presently existing legislation in the United States. I realize that you will be disappointed at this decision and I regret that in this instance this action was necessary. As you, we are trying to devise other ways to deal with problems of this kind.” (Ibid., 411.004/3–1762)